Older LGBTQI people have been disproportionately affected by isolation and loneliness this year
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGES VIA OPENING DOORS LONDON
In a brand new Fabric Of Britain Report by Karmarama, Opening Doors have revealed how strongly impacted the elderly LGBTQI community have been by issues of isolation and loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. There have been many economic, physical and environmental hurdles for the community and its members to overcome during this time.
Opening Doors is a charity born from a grassroots movement in the 1990s and early 2000s that sets out to “enable older LGBT+ people to live happy, healthy, and independent lives that are free from loneliness, isolation, prejudice and discrimination”.
It’s now an independent charity, the largest in the UK dedicated to servicing this segment of the population. It includes a wide variety of individuals and groups that bond over shared histories and hopes for the future, including active members and friends, Jane and Helen.
One of Opening Doors London’s most powerful weapons against isolation is a befriending service, which unites members of the elderly LGBTQI community with each other or younger volunteers.
Jane (pictured above) says in the new report: “The loneliness and isolation in the gay and lesbian community has the added layer that you might be of a certain age and you might be living alone, and you don’t necessarily want to run around saying, ‘Hey, I’m a lesbian.’ And every single new person you meet is a new coming out situation. And sometimes that can be either very tiring because you’ve been doing it all your life or scary because you’re not quite sure what reaction you’re going to get.”
During lockdown, members of Opening Doors have needed support on multiple levels. Some are unable to get the resources they need; others don’t have the means to communicate during lockdown.
Meghan, a member of the team at Opening Doors said: “I don’t think we did enough planning upfront, so, all of a sudden, everyone was in the office and them, bam, we were all at home, and there wasn’t that transition of getting ready for this. Then, all of a sudden, we had all of my members that were receiving face-to-face that I had to concentrate on getting them to be receiving phone calls and making sure their volunteers could be doing phone calls and they could receive phones”
As a result of the pandemic, the UK has seen a peak in volunteering efforts, and that has greatly benefited Opening Doors. More people have become aware of the initiative and are trying to do their part by becoming involved. As Opening Doors has had to switch to online groups – not only people in London but those from across the UK will now have access to the service and support.
Will Hodge, the lead author of the report, said: “We met with people and groups from 50 British communities, from every part of the country and we quickly realised that community life as we knew it had evolved.
“Take Opening Doors London. Since the pandemic, the charity has created an online process to provide support for members and a new telefriending service offering weekly phone calls. They have had more than 160 new volunteers apply, enabling them to befriend more people.
“Opening Doors London’s ability to adapt and overcome during such tough times is a great example of how the spirit of togetherness this country enjoys is stronger than ever. Long may it continue.”
If you’re looking for a way you can support Opening Doors London, Lost Horizon’s Boxing Day Bank Holiday party, Love is Not Cancelled, will be raising money for the charity.
This virtual festive rave up from powerhouse brands Little Gay Brother and HE.SHE.THEY in support of Opening Doors London, will shine a light on how the pandemic is affecting vulnerable members of the LGBTQI over 50s community over Christmas.
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